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Museums struggle with attendance, staffing meanwhile Pro Football HOF overcomes obstacles, study shows

Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted at 9:26 AM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 09:58:18-05

CANTON, Ohio — Since the start of the pandemic, every industry has been impacted in some way.

According to a new survey from American Alliance of Museums, nearly 30% of museums in the U.S. remain closed due to the pandemic. AAM the survey with 850 museum directors to assess the impacts of COVID-19. The agency asked the same questions as the first National Snapshot of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums which was conducted in June, and gathered some new data and benchmark metrics.

The study revealed several findings:

  • Museums are operating at, on average, 35% of their capacity
  • Over half (53%) of museums have had to furlough or lay off staff
  • To prepare for reopening, each museum spent, on average, $27,000, with this figure cited as high as $750,000
  • Nearly one-third of museum directors surveyed confirmed there was a “significant risk” (12%) of closing permanently by next fall, or they “didn’t know” (17%) if they would survive

In Canton, an official with the Pro Football Hall of Fame said while they've had many obstacles this year, luckily they've overcome many of them.

"Probably the biggest obstacle is the unknown. How long is it going to last? How comfortable are people going to going to be traveling? What is our governor going to mandate? What might the federal government mandate?" said Rich Desrosiers, the hall of fame's Vice President of Communications and Public Relations.

Desrosiers said the hall of fame is operating at 30% of its normal attendance, citing fewer visitors during popular weekends like Father's Day and Memorial Day and the loss of Enshrinement Week. The spokesperson also said only a few layoffs have occurred this year and so far the museum has not had to dip into their reserves. Instead, cuts to salaries were made at the management level.

"We feel like if we can get through the end of the year and get to the first of the year- with the excitement for the class of 2021 and the Super Bowl and announcing that class formally, that we might be able to continue through 2021 without having to dip into those reserves," he said.

To generate some money, to keep staff employed, Desrosiers said, the HOF has gotten more involved with projects and philanthropy this year, like Project Isaiah.

"COVID, in a way, has created some opportunities for us to you to see ourselves a little bit differently and use our platform, a little bit differently and to spread our message a little bit," he said.

Without a doubt, Desrosiers said, the postponement of Enshrinement Week has impacted attendance numbers and revenue. However, the museum isn't the only one losing money from the schedule change. Restaurants and hotels near the hall of fame have also felt the impacts.

"It was a tough loss. Tough to just see that event just go by like that," said Chris Maggiore, owner of Jerzee's Bar and Grille. "Just disappointing for those events to not go on. They're amazing for the city of Canton and so many restaurants."

Maggiore said the week long celebration is huge for him and his staff. But rather than dwell on the loss, it's time to prepare for next year.

"We're really looking forward to it next year. It's going to be double the fun with two classes of inductees," he said. "We just have to look past it and look forward to next year and we're already starting to plan for next year and make it better than ever."

All events scheduled for 2020 Enshrinement Week celebration at the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been rescheduled for 2021. According to their website, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to postpone the teams’ 2020 Hall of Fame Game into 2021. That matchup, which sold out in 22 minutes when tickets went on sale in March, now will be played on Thursday night, Aug. 5, 2021. It will kick off a full slate of events tied to honoring as many as 28 legends of the game in two Enshrinements.

“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority,” said David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multi-day celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver for fans ‘Twice the Fun in ’21.’”